So, even though I said I was done with ideas to generate new philanthropic capital, I'm not. Yesterday, IBM announced that it was giving free access to 500 of its more than 40,000 global patents.
Today, the Times reports that IBM is still the global leader in annual patent filings, collecting more than 3,200 patents in 2004 on top of the 3,415 filed in 2003. This is the 12th year in a row the company has filed the most U.S. patents of any single entity.
Clearly the company values intellectual property. Clearly it invests in R & D. And, clearly, something is shifting in how and by whom this type of property actualizes its value. IBM wouldn't give away 500 patents if it didn't think that free, unrestricted, open source access to these ideas would generate new possibilities, new products, and new, bigger markets.
IBM is acting on a new understanding of collaboration and economic growth. Open source software, the Internet, and new arguments for an "intellectual commons" are behind the recognition of these new economic principles and IBM's actions.
So, I'm refining yesterday's idea about an industry-wide R & D alliance to call for an Open Source philanthropic product development enterprise. The same principles that spurred IBM to act - market innovation and growth - should apply.